How well a school treats their staff is something parents should consider when choosing the right school for their child
26 October 2021| Last updated on 31 October 2021
When you’re choosing a school to provide the best possible education for your child, you’re taking a lot of factors into consideration.
An important one to think about is how staff feel working at the school.
If staff and teachers aren’t bringing their best selves to work, it may affect how the students feel, learn, and behave.
Workplaces that operate under high stress levels can affect employees’ mental health. This can lead to burnout and exhaustion, or ongoing struggles when experiencing personal challenges or major life changes. Some benefits of staff wellbeing include increased retention and productivity, reduced absenteeism and sick leave, a resilient workforce, and an enhanced workplace reputation.
The Swiss International Scientific School Dubai has introduced a new representative to raise the wellbeing of their staff. In this article, we’ll talk about why teacher and school staff wellbeing is important, and other ways schools can support staff wellness.
1. Is it part of the school policy?
Staff wellbeing begins with the school’s policies. A policy co-created with staff, faculty, and parents or other caregivers is an ideal way to begin if there isn’t yet a wellbeing policy.
The policies and procedures should apply the same processes and expectations to all staff. Furthermore, there should be clarity and fairness around its implementation.
Then, it’s important to ensure the school implements the policy effectively and reviews it regularly. Some ideas for inclusion:
- Outlined organisational structure.
- Staff acknowledge what is expected of them and know their job roles and responsibilities.
- Appraisal that is encouraging and concentrates on raising the standards of students.
- Partnering with colleagues to support each other in reflecting on their practice and problem-solving work challenges.
- Resilience-based workshops to help normalise speaking about wellbeing.
- Team development opportunities.
- Staff recognition and praise.
- No tolerance for bullying, harassment, or other forms of discrimination.
2. What is the school's culture or environment?
The success of a staff wellbeing policy (or a lack of one) will be apparent, and affected by, a school’s culture or environment. A school should be inclusive and welcoming, and staff should feel able to be themselves.
They should also feel their workloads are reasonable and be given space for growth and development. That space will allow them to feel that they’re making a meaningful contribution in the workplace.
Staff should have a dedicated space where they can take time out. Little things can be done to contribute to a positive environment and make a difference. These can include keeping the room clean, offering fruit, or bringing in treats to thank staff for their work. As mentioned above, a school should have a process for acknowledging good work.
On top of that, there should be clear communication that encourages staff to openly talk about their concerns.
Senior leaders should model good work habits and self-care to encourage work-life balance. Leaders should also have an open-door policy so staff know they can discuss anything with them. For example, staff should be encouraged to finish on time and take breaks when they can.
Additionally, they should have regular meetings with colleagues or other staff when dealing with difficult situations with students.
The school’s communication style should help to engage staff and build good relationships between members. There may also be an assigned staff champion for wellbeing.
Where possible, flexible working should be encouraged to promote work-life balance. Staff should be regularly consulted about changes happening in the school and involved in developing problem-solving strategies. Implementing a staff wellbeing survey is one example that could help to generate feedback and ideas.
Amenities and the relationships between teachers and senior staff all contribute to the culture and wellbeing of a school. In turn, this models how students relate to each other and to staff.
3. Does the school offer resources for staff support?
A good wellbeing policy will contain resources for support for school staff members. The policy should encourage staff to talk openly without fear of stigma, and contain information about how staff members can get help within or outside the school environment.
The information should aim to guide them if they’re experiencing mental health difficulties, major life events, or juggling care responsibilities. If a school has a confidential employee assistance programme, staff should know how to access it. It should also outline advice and guidance for senior staff about supporting a staff member who may have mental health difficulties.
Both staff and leadership should feel confident and encouraged to notice challenges that may arise. Early problem solving and support can help to de-escalate situations early when a colleague’s wellbeing is under threat.
Finally, studies show professional development increases job satisfaction and contributes to good health and wellbeing in any workplace. A school with a good policy will provide training and development opportunities for staff at every level.
The Swiss International Scientific School Dubai has launched a 'Be Good To Yourself Day' for all of its staff, which is a chance for them to have one extra holiday of their choice annually.